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Study: Flu with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China

A new study suggests a new swine flu could have ‘pandemic potential’

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In this April 16, 2020, file photo, vials containing nasal swabs collected at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site are dropped into a plastic bag to be sent off for processing after being collected in St. Louis.

In this April 16, 2020, file photo, vials containing nasal swabs collected at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site are dropped into a plastic bag to be sent off for processing after being collected in St. Louis.

Associated Press

Chinese scientists have identified a new strain of flu that might have the potential to create a pandemic, according to a new study.

What’s going on?

  • Scientists wrote in the medical journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthat there is a new flu strain in China with the potential to spread worldwide.
  • Pigs carry the virus. It can infect humans, the study said.
  • Researchers worry the virus could spread farther and move from person to person, creating a global outbreak, according to CNN.
  • Scientists said the virus isn’t an immediate problem. However, the strain does require close monitoring to insure it doesn’t spread.

How it could impact humans:

  • It’s unclear how much immunity humans have to the virus.
  • Researchers suggest the virus is similar to the swine flu (which is called A/H1N1pdm09). The virus can spread infection between people’s airways.
  • So far, researchers have found evidence of the virus in those who worked in the swine industry in China when they researched data from 2011 to 2018, according to BBC News. Current flu vaccines do not protect against the virus, CNN reports.

What it means:

Kin-Chow Chang, a professor from Nottingham University in the UK, told the BBC News: “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”

A World Health Organization spokeswoman told the BBC News:

Eurasian avian-like swine influenza virus are known to be circulating in the swine population in Asia and to be able to infect humans sporadically. Twice a year during the influenza vaccine composition meetings, all information on the viruses is reviewed and the need for new candidate vaccine viruses is discussed. We will carefully read the paper to understand what is new. It also highlights that we cannot let down our guard on influenza; we need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t freak out:

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University’s public health school, said people shouldn’t “freak out” about the virus.

“Our understanding of what is a potential pandemic influenza strain is limited. Sure, this virus meets a lot of the basic criteria but it’s not for sure going to cause a hypothetical 2020 flu pandemic, or even be a dominant strain in humans.”